The World's Top 10 Marathons

Here it is: the definitive list of the world's top 10 marathons, from RUNNER'S WORLD International

Posted: 8 July 2002
by Steve Smythe and Steven Seaton

Ask 10 runners what the best marathon in the world is, and you could get 10 different answers. Marathon memories are, to say the least, vulnerable to our own biases. Smash a PB in the Luton Marathon and (let’s take a leap of the imagination here) it could be instantly higher on your list than London, where you forgot your lucky socks and that man was so rude to you on the Tube.

That’s why when we decided to name the world’s 10 best marathons, we went straight to the top. We collected the opinions and experiences of the staff of the seven international editions of RUNNER’S WORLD (a report like this will appear in each). We all cast our votes, and even though we all run and report on international marathons for a living, we each added the votes of an expert from our country from inside the sport (in our case RW Contributing Editor Hugh Jones, the secretary of the Association of International Marathons and a former London Marathon winner).

We weren’t so interested in the elite fields; mainly the experience of the ordinary runner (of course, the two can be related: elite fields draw the TV coverage, which draws crowds, competitors and money to the race). Among other things, we scored the races for beauty, atmosphere and speed. And, hand on heart, we did nothing to sway the outcome. Read on, start noting dates in your diary, and, if you get your entry accepted for the world’s greatest marathon, in April, now is the time to be doubly proud.

Without further ado; the world's top 10 marathons:

1. London Marathon, April
2. Berlin Marathon, September
3= New York City Marathon, November
3= Chicago Marathon, October
5. Boston Marathon, April
6. Stockholm Marathon, June
7. Rotterdam Marathon, April
8. Paris Marathon, April
9. Honolulu Marathon, December
10. Amsterdam Marathon, October

Marathon Sense

The easiest option for running a European marathon is to book a package with a tour operator who can guarantee an entry into a race. The following companies offer packages for UK travellers for many of the above races: 2:09 Events 0870 3500 209; Sports Tours International 0161-703 8161; Nirvana 01670 859300.

  • If you’re travelling independently, you’ll find that most event organisers speak English, although it is easier to contact them in writing via e-mail. Those who don’t speak English generally understand it in writing.
  • From February 28, 2002, the majority of Europe will use the same currency, the Euro. Sweden is the one European country in the top 10 (along with the UK) outside the Euro zone.
  • Outside the UK and USA, most of the world’s marathons are measured and marked in kilometres rather than miles.
  • Most European marathons use a timing chip, and provide competitors with two times, from the gun and start to finish. American marathons such as Chicago are switching to this system too.

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Discuss this article

I have just run my first marathon (Nottingham) and to my surprise want to run another one !!

I am looking for a european race in spring of next year and wondered if anyone could suggest any really good ones. Don't mind undulating but preferably not too hilly !!

How about the Copenhagan marathon ?

Posted: 28/09/2004 at 13:19

Paris. No question about it. Excellent sites, flat course, good crowds, good organisation, nice wine (OK, perhaps not important...!). That was my first and I'm going back to do it again!
Posted: 02/10/2004 at 12:01

This is another one -
Posted: 02/10/2004 at 12:21

Stephanie .... not done Copenhagen but I have done Paris 2003 and Rotterdam 2003 and 2004 ...both excellent races and flat. You also have Lochaber and Belfast (New Course) in April.
Posted: 02/10/2004 at 12:23

Also Den Haag 1/2 marathon on Sat March 19th 2005 ... called City Pier City ... big race champion chips and flat
Posted: 02/10/2004 at 12:24

Runners World Top 10

1. London Marathon, April
2. Berlin Marathon, September
3= New York City Marathon, November
3= Chicago Marathon, October
5. Boston Marathon, April
6. Stockholm Marathon, June
7. Rotterdam Marathon, April
8. Paris Marathon, April
9. Honolulu Marathon, December
10. Amsterdam Marathon, October

4 down 6 to go. Paris and Rotterdam are on the same day so my list for 2005 is

not doing Edinburgh its too dear
Loch Ness
New York (if I save really hard)
Posted: 02/10/2004 at 12:30

This thread died a quick death - I wonder how valid it is today?
Posted: 13/10/2008 at 14:21

Don't know how alive the link is? We could get it going again..

I'm thinking on going for Rotterdam in the Spring..   I did London last year in 4' 09".   Want to dip below the magical 4'.   Think Rotterdam will give me the the best chance.

Price is okay as well.   two friends have booked a 5* hotel for 3 nights for E340.  That sounds very reasonable.  Extry fee is also round the E40 mark. 

 Does running Scenic marathons make a difference?  In London I didn't really notice the sights but I do remember the electric atmosphere especially through the "Isle of Dogs"

Posted: 16/10/2008 at 15:27

I find London very difficult and have my two worst marathons there so you could get a pb easily elsewhere. I have Beachy head next week then Halstead in the spring followed by the Picnic in June. London to Brighton in october so a bit booked up at the moment!
Posted: 16/10/2008 at 22:32


Good to see your taking things easy!!!!

I feel bad about only doing two 5 mile runs this week.. 

Posted: 17/10/2008 at 10:23

Just got the runners bug back having set a pb at the Busan Half Marathon (1:34:48).

 I'd like to run a more rural marathon (thought about the Loch Ness Marathon) but one which also has a good atmosphere.  I have ran London twice and loved it, but I'd like to try one out of a city.  

 Also - which one is the best for running a personal best?  I have ran 3:54 and 3:37, but really want to get below 3:30 and I am trying to find the best race to do that in...

Posted: 05/10/2010 at 04:16

Best bet is to go over to the events section of the forum and check out the recent threads there or make a new post there and ask. Mind you I was intrigued about the time travelling aspect.
Posted: 05/10/2010 at 09:42

i like this site.. if you want to run in our country just visit my blogs its give lots of information and running events around our country

Posted: 06/04/2011 at 17:23

you forgot to mention the athens classic marathon .Its the original course anyway .
Posted: 22/05/2012 at 12:50

Indeed, The athens marathons is THE classic. The next one is on April, 14th 



Posted: 26/11/2012 at 09:26

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